Boeing’s Incompetency Crisis Continues – Tyre Fell From The Sky, Engine Burst Into Fire, Documentation Not Exist

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Mar 10 2024
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At the rate Boeing is trying its best to demonstrate how parts can fall off from the sky, it may not be long before China’s first homegrown jet maker COMAC starts eating its lunch. After Singapore Airshow, the Chinese manufacturer is scheduled to show off its C919 and ARJ21 in Malaysia on March 12, as part of marketing showcase in Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.


Just one day after a United Airlines’ Boeing 737 from Houston to Fort Myers, Florida, experienced a dramatic mid-flight engine fire, forcing the United Flight 1118 to make an emergency landing in Texas minutes after take-off, a tyre from another United Airlines fell off spectacularly from the sky and crushed some vehicles in a parking lot at the San Francisco International Airport.


The United Flight 35, heading to Japan from San Francisco, experienced a landing gear malfunction that caused the tyre to separate from the Boeing 777-200, which was loaded with 249 souls. Fortunately, the jet has six tyres on each of its two main landing gear struts. The Osaka-bound plane was diverted and landed safely at the Los Angeles International Airport.

United Airlines Boeing Tire Fell Off - Crushed Cars

But the drama for the week did not end there. The next day (Friday, March 8, 2024), United Flight 2477, with 160 passengers and 6 crew, had just landed at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport when the Boeing 737 MAX, which has been in service for less than a year, veered into the grass on turn. That’s indeed a spectacular demonstration within a week.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it will investigate all three incidents. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), meanwhile, is sending a team to Houston and United Airlines announced it will work with the FAA, NTSB and Boeing to understand what actually happened. Actually, in addition to the three incidents, there were two other incidents involving United and Boeing this week.


On Monday, a United Airlines declared an emergency while the Boeing 757-300, which was travelling from Honolulu to San Francisco, was 270 nautical miles from its destination due to a shutdown of its right engine. The United Flight 214, involving a 21-year-old plane, has been grounded in San Francisco. On the same day, a United flight from Pensacola, Florida, reported a gear issue with the 737 aircraft, but was able to land safely in Chicago.

Boeing 777-200 Tire Fell Off

Interestingly, this is not the first time Boeing experienced mid-air engine fire or tyre dropping from the sky this year. In January this year, an Atlas Air Boeing 747-8 erupts into flames mid-air over Miami after suffering an engine fire just 14 minutes after taking off, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing and returned to the Miami International Airport.


In the same month that Atlas Air saw fireworks in one of its engines and Alaska Airlines’ door plug was blown out due to missing bolts, a hilarious announcement came from an air-traffic controller at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As Delta flight to Colombia involving Boeing 757 was preparing to take off, the announcement said – “One of your nose tyres just came off – it just rolled off the runway behind you”.


In reality, over the past 3 years, the nonprofit “Foundation for Aviation Safety”  has filed over 1,800 service-problematic reports and warned the FAA about potential safety issues with the Boeing 737 MAX alone. But almost all of them were ignored until increased scrutiny this month. On Tuesday, Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci revealed that an inspection found “many” of the company’s 737 MAX 9’s had loose bolts.

 Alaska Airlines Exit Door Blown Off - Inside View

The last straw that broke the camel’s back was when an emergency door “plug” was blown away on January 5 this year on the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, forcing it to return to Portland shortly after taking off for Ontario, California. The plane, carrying 177 passengers and crew, landed safely in Portland with a massive hole as wide as a refrigerator. An order to ground Boeing Max 9 aircrafts was issued by the FAA the next day.


Boeing’s incompetency crisis continues as it greets 2024, just as the company was recovering from a crisis of confidence in 2019 after “two fatal crashes” within about five months of one another. After Indonesian budget airline Lion Air Flight 610 crashed on Oct 29, 2018, killing 189 people, a second crash involving Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Mar 10, 2019 killed all 157 people on board (including passengers from 35 nations).


After an 18-month investigation into Boeing 737 MAX 8 deadly crashes – which killed 346 people in two accidents between 2018 and 2019 – the U.S. House of Representatives released its final report. The 238-page report from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure basically confirmed what the public suspected – Boeing and FAA were responsible!

Boeing 737 Max 8 - Grounded - Crash

From the beginning, the 737 MAX – Boeing’s bestseller airplane – was produced with “serious flaws and missteps in the design, development, and certification of the aircraft.” Despite that, the 737 MAX aircraft – made at Boeing’s factory in the US state of Washington – received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in March 2017.


Two years after it was banned from flying passengers, the Boeing 737 Max 8 was eventually cleared to return to the skies again in 2021. Obviously, it was both a commercial and political decisions as Boeing’s business was severely affected as the company has thousands of 737 Max orders on its books. The company agreed to repair the flight control system, update operating manuals and increase pilot training.


However, during the investigations, it was discovered that Boeing would do anything in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews, and the flying public. In fact, the hanky-panky within the company was so critical that even its employees had raised alarms internally. An employee wrote in an email in 2017 – “This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys,”

Boeing - Designed by Clowns and Supervised by Monkeys

That same year, another employee complained about an internal push to bypass costly simulator training – “There will not be any type of simulator training required. We’ll go face to face with any regulator who tries to make that a requirement”. Another wrote in 2018 – “I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year”, the same year Lion Air Flight 610 flight crashed into the Java Sea.


The Alaska Airlines tragedy could be fatal had the door plug detached from the plane at a higher altitude. At 16,000 feet, and still climbing, passengers and crew were still seated with seatbelts still on. It was also lucky that no one was seated in 26A and 26B, adjacent to where the door plug was located and blown off. The flight was only about 10 minutes from its departure airport – Portland International – when the panel detached itself.


Finally, on Feb 6, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report revealed how the panel could detach from the plane – the “four bolts” supposedly to secure the door frame were missing. Boeing’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, under pressure to address manufacturing defects, has admitted responsibility and agreed to work closely with the authorities to ensure high standards of safety, quality and reliability.

Boeing 737 Max 9 Door Plug - Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 - Investigation

Obviously, Boeing does not care about quality assurance, or deliberately ignores the importance of quality control in order to sell as many planes as possible to make profits. Even before the Alaska Airlines tragedy, U.S. regulators admitted that a foreign airline had found a bolt with a missing nut in a MAX 737 rudder system and Boeing discovered a case of a nut not properly tightened.


Worse, on top of manufacturing defects, Boeing as well as Airbus is still facing staff shortages due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, Boeing announced 30,000 layoffs to save money due to uncertainty when the virus spreads. Now, when it tries to ramp-up production to 42 units of 737 aircraft per month, it can’t because the FAA has limited its production to 38 units, not to mention the shortages of manpower.


As a result, inspections were not fully done – even totally cut – as the U.S. plane maker scrambles to deliver the MAX to customers after months of grounding. Boeing had an order backlog of 4,799 units of 737 narrowbody jets at the end of December 2023. There were already incidents of mis-drilled holes in window frames, which required rework due to out-of-alignment on some fuselages.

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9

The best part is, as testimony at a Senate Commerce Committee unveiled this week, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said her team hadn’t received all the documents and information it had sought from Boeing. As it turned out, the documents do not exist as to how the Alaska Airlines aircraft left the Boeing factory with missing bolts. “It’s absurd that two months later we don’t have that,” – Homendy told the committee.


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